Onside vs Offside Key for interviews at DVinfo.net

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Old September 12th, 2007, 10:38 AM   #1
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Onside vs Offside Key for interviews

My research on this found it commonly stated that one versus the other depends on what "look" you want. Offside is claimed to be more "dramatic".
My observation however is that for one reason or another, most are offside. On EFPlighting for example, I think they are nearly (if not completely) all offside key interview lighting designs.

My experience is that a given interview may have dramatic moments and others not so dramatic. So, I'm questioning that simplified guidance on when to choose one or the other as impractical. Add to that, Walter Graff's "I like my women soft" which says forget about key and light women from the front (presumably whether dramatic or not!).

So, has anyone given this any deeper thought as to what the relative merits are in deciding onside/offside/frontside?

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Old September 12th, 2007, 08:23 PM   #2
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Since we're dealing with a 2d medium and trying to make it look 3d, the only thing we have at our disposal is the creative use of light and shadow. Drama is not necessarily about shadows and lighting from the side. Soft light units will give lesser and softer shadows. Hard light units will give harder, more well-defined shadows. Drama is not so much associated with "from the side" but rather well-defined shadows (or less diffusion in other words) from hard light and can also be at a 3/4 angle too.

I doubt that it would be an effective technique to change the lighting during an interview when its a more dramatic moment. Most use the same lighting throughout for consistency sake. In fact, I can't remember a single example of where someone changed the lighting during an interview on the same set.

Keying either soft or hard, with less or more shadows is all part of painting with light to get a 3d effect. You can still have soft shadows or almost imperceptible shadows and get the more interesting effects.

Keying women from the front is not the idea, it is soft keying women with the least amount of shadows, soft or hard for a "flat" lighting effect. It's an old idea and many agree and some disagree with it. You can still find many examples of shadows on women in any given video or film you find, but when there are shadows, most opt for the softer shadows given by soft light from a 3/4 angle and a reflector or weaker soft light on the other side.
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Old September 12th, 2007, 11:10 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by Ernest House View Post
So, has anyone given this any deeper thought as to what the relative merits are in deciding onside/offside/frontside?
To me, it's how much interest I want to call to the subject. For interviews I generally want to muster as much as possible, so I choose offside for its greater 3d effect and light-play. The environment is an important consideration, too.
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Old September 13th, 2007, 02:15 PM   #4
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Best side?

I am currently a Junior in a Telecommunications progam in college and the technique that i am learning is not on-side or off-side, but rather the best side. I think this is taking into account of the subject you are shooting and deciding which side of their face is more photogenic. Correct me if i am wrong, but changing the sides for dramatic and less dramatic moments will do nothing more but confuse your viewers because they will notice the change in the lighting.

Now addressing the soft verse hard lighting. I believe these two types of lighting defintely depend on your topic and your subject. If you are lighting a elderly person, you will want to use a soft light to help get rid of some wrinkles and help make them look better. Soft light could also be used when your subject is very light and maybe even comedic. Hard light is used for dramas and intense interviews.
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Old September 13th, 2007, 02:31 PM   #5
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Offside camera is not as "off" as it sounds. The person interviewed looks to the side where the interviewer is, you open up this space in your frame and I think the key light should be from that side - which is offside camera.
I think it always looks better as long as the fill-side is not too dark (but I don't like that anyways).
As far as I know the topic is like a religious belief for many gaffers and they either believe in on- or offside and you can't argue with them.
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Old September 13th, 2007, 04:21 PM   #6
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This really is mostly all situational and I would find it hard to make up some rules about what to do in all cases. You should ideally have a great kit you travel with both adequate soft and hard lighting and use them in such a combination as each new venue, subject, talent and whims require.
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Old September 13th, 2007, 07:56 PM   #7
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Just to be clear. I didn't suggest switching lighting based on an interview going dramatic or not. Nor did I suggest switching camera sides.

My point was the impracticality of using "dramatic feel" as the basis for the lighting setup/lighting type. Graff suggests gender as the guideline for frontside/soft. Nino uses mostly offside (even for sports interviews), some front and some onside.

By din of there being so many non-dramatic-feel interviews shot offside, It suggested to me that other criteria MAY be in use. So, I thought I'd ask.

My own thinking now is that it's a part of a whole. Onside/offside of a subject is a function of the whole visual composition (chiaroscuro included). Thanks.
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Old September 13th, 2007, 08:42 PM   #8
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Rules are fine, but...

There are SO many variables in lighting - and so many approaches that can give you good/interesting/fabulous results - that's it's almost impossible to make RULES about lighting.

It's kind of like art. If you demand straight lines, you're nuts. Try stuff. Learn how to LOOK at the light and shadows. Learn what different types of lights do by trying out as MANY as you can beg, borrow, or create.

SEE how lights create contrast, dimension, and appropriateness of a lighting "look" to the communication needs of the work.

Studying this is really EASY to do on your own, just rent some decent movies and pause the DVD and STUDY the frames you like by observing the lights, the shadows, and the edges between them. You can practically DECONSTRUCT most light plots by just looking at well lit scenes.

You'll see inside keys, outside keys, hard and soft fills, neutral and colored rim lights and eyelights, and catch lights, and half the time if you look really closely, you can see the ACTUAL lights they're using reflected in shiny stuff (like characters EYES) in the scenes.

It ALL starts by learning how to look at the RESULTS of lighting with a critical eye.

That's really what matters. Not whether you put a particular key light here or there on shoot A, or B, or C.

BTW, If you really want to learn BEAUTIFUL lighting go buy the latest 30 pound VOGUE Magazine and study the ADS. You'll see a HUGE variety of exquisite lighting on the pages, most of it pretty easy to deconstruct.

FWIW.
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Old September 13th, 2007, 09:36 PM   #9
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Contrasted lights

Another type of interview setup i have seen lately would have the backlight be a natural light source and the key be an artifical light source. This contrast creates a warm orange color on the face and a blue back light. What do people make of this type of setup. Many of my college classmates have been experimenting with these setups and i am unsure about if they really work. Could someone explain if this look is pleasing or not to the eye?
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Old September 13th, 2007, 10:58 PM   #10
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That kind of setup you're talking about is not necessarily using a natural light source at all. It's more common that they use a daylight source of some kind like an HMI for the background and then a regular tungsten (or tungsten colored) source for the foreground. Then they white balance to 3200K / tungsten color. It's kind of a "CSI" type look (or one they and other filmed cop dramas really have made popular) and is totally up to each person and whether they think its appropriate for their production. Some like that look and some don't so it just depends upon the demographics of who's watching your programs. CSI I suppose draws young viewers and they probably think their lighting look is more trendy for that crowd.
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Old September 14th, 2007, 02:39 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by William Butler View Post
Another type of interview setup i have seen lately would have the backlight be a natural light source and the key be an artifical light source. This contrast creates a warm orange color on the face and a blue back light. What do people make of this type of setup. Many of my college classmates have been experimenting with these setups and i am unsure about if they really work. Could someone explain if this look is pleasing or not to the eye?


Nope, we can't.

Because the setup you discribe might look FABULOUS on an actor with dark hair, pale skin, and a medium blue polo.

And HIDIOUS on a redhead with mild acne and a white t-shirt.

One thing you'll learn pretty quickly is that each really good lighting result is someone reacting to the INDIVIDUAL characteristics of THAT shoot.

If there was one RIGHT approach to all rim lights, or all key lights, or all fill lights it would have been discovered LONG ago and we'd all use it.

But there isn't and we don't.

We're left with trial and error - and knowledge built over time by trying and adapting building block techniques against THIS type of camera with THESE characteristics of performance in THESE sorts of locations.

It's the best any of us can hope for.
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Old September 14th, 2007, 02:53 AM   #12
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Nope, we can't.

Because the setup you discribe might look FABULOUS on an actor with dark hair, pale skin, and a medium blue polo.

And HIDIOUS on a redhead with mild acne and a white t-shirt.
LOL. Oh, that's why they only have pretty, well-dressed people on CSI--no ugly cops or bad guys...
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Old September 14th, 2007, 07:51 AM   #13
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For the subject, these issues tend to be one of "what is the best lighting for this subject?" This has been an issues for studio photographers for years as they are interested in capturing that one perfect portrait of a person to be used as a memory. Google being our friend, I've found these:

http://www.vividlight.com/articles/1615.htm
http://www.studiolighting.net/lighting-eyeglasses/
http://home.earthlink.net/~terryleedawson/id11.html
http://www.shutterbug.net/features/0199sb_mr/
http://jzportraits.home.att.net/

There are may more, go play in google.
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